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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Fatherhood of God

Earlier today, I found an old article on Touchstone that was really interesting: "Thou Art the Everlasting Son of the Father," which I will first summarize some parts that stuck out to me and then offer some of my own thoughts.

Summary of (Some) Interesting Points

The main focus of the essay is (as the subtitle says) the Fatherhood of God. What got my attention was when the author started talking about how many groups are moving away from the traditional names of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) to "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier." His problem with that is that "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" refers to God in Eternity—in His eternal relationship to Himself—while "Creator, Reedemer, Sanctifier" only refers to God in His relation to his creatures. In other words, the Trinity is "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier" in the "economy of salvation", but if there were no creation to have created, no fallen man to have redeemed or to sanctify, God would not be "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier". However, God is always "Father, Son, Holy Spirit", because that is how God relates to himself: the Father is Father to the Son, etc.

He also talks about the monarcy of the Father, and—another thing I found interesting—says that referring to the Father as "Father" is not a figure of speech. It is not a metaphor, whereby God is compared to our earthly fathers. As the author says, He is not simply like a father, nor is He even a father, He is the Father, and all earthly fatherhood finds its source in Him. Rather than saying our relationship to God is like our relationship to our earthly fathers, we should say our relationship to our earthly fathers is like our relationship to God the Father. He does refer to some instances where metaphor and simile are appropriate: for instance, referring to God as a rock is a metaphor, comparing his steadfastness, strength, etc. to that of a rock which is never moved but God is not actually a rock, and one could legitimately refer to God, metaphorically, as a mother, but He is not "the Mother."

The author also makes the point that mixing the names "Father" and "Creator" is the heresy of Arius, because if we say that "Father" and "Creator" are the same, that makes the Son a created being (Arius was deemed a heretic because he taught that Christ was only a man, and not divine). Rather, God is Father apart from being Creator. If He had never created anything, He would still be the Father in relation to the Son.

My Thoughts

I think the author does a good job of discussing this regarding how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to one another, and I will leave more thoughts as to that to the reader. "Practically", regarding how we relate as men to one another this seems, to me, to show my relationship to my parents in a slightly different light. How I understand this (and, if I'm wrong, I'm sure—and I hope—that someone who knows better will correct me), is that, in a sense, my father is, to me, an icon (or image) of God the Father. When I speak of an icon, by the way, I am speaking of how I understand the 7th Ecumencial Council to have understood icons, where the icon is a "window" through which we see God (you don't look at a window, you look through it), and the honor given to the icon is passed on to the original (which is, ultimately, God). In this sense, perhaps, the commandment was given to "honor your father and mother" because, by honoring them, you honor God. I read something else recently (can't remember where) that stated that it is worth noting that this commandment marks the transition in the Decalogue from those governing how we relate to God ("No gods before Me", "No idols", "Don't take My Name in vain", "Remember the Sabbath") to those governing how we relate to man ("Don't muder", "Don't commit adultery", "Don't steal", "Don't bear false witness", "Don't covet"). By the way, I'm not entirely sure how the mother fits here, since we are discussing God's Fatherhood, so any thoughts on that would be appreciated. Perhaps the mother is included as being one flesh with the father? Anyway, this specific discussion can go in two ways: the responsibility of the child, and the responsibility of the father.

The responsibility of the child is to honor one's parents, because, in doing so, one honors God. Obedience to one's parents, then, is obedience to God, and rebellion against one's parents is rebellion against God (I am sure, of course, that an exception exists when obeying one's parents is contrary to obeying God). This also means that encouraging someone else to dishonor his parents is encouraging him to dishonor God.

The responsibility of the father is to be, himself, a proper image of God to his children. It is no wonder that many who grew up with an abusive/absent father find it difficult to accept God as a good, loving, and faithful father! Fatherhood is a grave responsibility, because, being an image of God to their children, fathers, in some measure, shape how their children view God.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts on the article. There's much more said (and much better said) in the article, and I encourage anyone with the time to spare to read it.

2 comments:

Boltono said...

Yes, earthly fathers do shape the image of how sons and daughters perceive God to be.
It's a stepping stone to either slip off from into the mud or to hop off from into a bigger revelation pointed to by a good Dad who can show a bit of the heavenly to aspire towards.
Thank God that even if we slide off into the mud like I did, that God is able to still show his fatherly qualities.
Redemption. Hurray.
Forgiveness (of a lousy Dad) hurray.
More todiscover of the truth of growing into his image...hurray.

CoderForChrist said...

Amen. Thank God for grace. "A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench."

And thanks for your comments. God bless you as you continue to grow in Him.